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Tied to business triumph.

Sharon Thomas is zipping along to self-sufficiency

Sharon Thomas' journey to success has been long and arduous, but she has overcome the setbacks that once threatened to destroy her dream of thriving entrepreneurship. Now, as president and CEO of Y-Tie Neckwear, Thomas is tied to making her business grow.

She got the idea for a pre-tied necktie during a fashion show she was promoting while in college back in 1994. Stopping to tie their ties prevented the male models from getting on the runway quickly. "I thought there had to be an easier way to do it," recalls Thomas. Y-Tie was born out of a desire to complete a project for a marketing class, and to allay her frustrations during future fashion shows.

Her initial designs failed, but she finally found one that worked: a zipper, hidden behind a perfectly created knot, is pulled up to tighten the tie, and down to loosen it. "I never thought that I would be an inventor," says Thomas. But she is. The invention, for which she holds a patent, earned Thomas an "A" on her college project. Her professor, friends, and family coaxed her into starting her own business.

She decided to go for it. She launched Y-Tie in 1995 while working at Universal Distribution, a subsidiary of Universal Studios, in Chicago. With two solid years of research behind her invention and $11,000 in start-up capital, she was confident the profits would soon start rolling in. Getting her business off the ground, however, wouldn't be as easy as earning the "A" she received in college.

She took a leap of faith and left Universal Distribution in 1998 to run Y-Tie full-time. Her financial situation became very tight for a while. "I had to dip into my personal savings in order to keep the business afloat," says Thomas. Her promotional gigs weren't yielding much. "There were rimes I had to live with friends," recounts Thomas, who couldn't keep up with her monthly rent. "I didn't have any money or resources. Things were pretty bad."

Determined to keep her business alive, she began seeking more funds. Thomas found a prospective partner, but the relationship proved to be unproductive. She continued promoting special events, and later in 1998 got a night job as marketing director at Epitome Restaurant (formerly The Clique) and E2 Chicago club, both owned and operated by Calvin Hollins. The two became good friends, and she eventually confided in him her desire to get her business firmly established. Hollins agreed to become her partner, and invested $150,000 in the company. He had the financial resources to move her business forward.

At press rime, gross revenues for the company were expected to reach about $700,000 by year-end. To date, Thomas has deals with METRA, the transit authority in Chicago, the Salvation Army, and Pace Bus Service. With the help of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Thomas is working to secure contracts with the U.S. military and the U.S. Postal Service. She also hopes to work with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, possibly finalizing a deal by the end of 2001.

BE's SUCCESSPERT SPEAKS: "Sharon's is the classic story of what it takes to find your passion" and transform it into a business, says Walt Goodridge, author of Turn Your Passion Into Profit ( "Despite low cash flow and homelessness, she was committed to push her idea until things played out her way!" To find your passion:

* Look at what you know best. Your passion often hides in the everyday.

* Find a need and fill it. People will ask, "How did I ever do without this?"

* Listen to what others say. As Thomas found out, sometimes others see the value of your idea more clearly than you do.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sharon Thomas, business woman.
Author:Palmer, Pittershawn
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Next Article:Cultivate your competence.

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